Ao Haru Ride Volumes 5 & 6
It’s that time of the series by Io Sakisaka — it’s too soon for things to settle down (since the series overall runs 13 volumes), and the first mystery has been revealed, so let’s introduce some rivals for the attention of the members of our core couple. That will provide more chance for misunderstandings and pining internal monologues of the “why would he do that?” sort.
Ao Haru Ride volume 5 starts with great romantic promise. Futaba and Kou make plans to go to the summer festival, another try at their first date that never happened years before. But Kou abruptly cancels on her, throwing her again into wondering when and if she should say she likes him.
Her feelings are complicated by new character Toma. Futaba met him in volume 4 when she barreled into him, knocked him over, and accidentally put her hand in his crotch, causing embarrassment for all. Once they get past that, she finds him easier to talk to than she expected, and his tendency to blush profusely is adorable. That he goes on doing what he thinks is right in spite of his blushes gives him a character trait I much admire. He’s a bit more straightforward than is usual in teen stories, which I find refreshing.
Meanwhile, Kou is distracted by an old friend from where he previously lived who’s gone through many of the same problems he did with divorced parents and other family struggles. He’s on his phone all the time, out of a sense of responsibility, and Toma is happy to take his place spending time with Futaba. Toma seems healthier for her than Kou, who doesn’t tell anyone anything, so I am now conflicted, suspecting I want something different for our heroine than I’m supposed to.
Visually, the settings are as expected for the teen shojo genre — a fast food restaurant after school, a maid/butler cafe for the festival. Although it’s a cross-dressing cafe, so we see Futaba as a butler and Kou as a maid, which is a bit odd.
Volume 6 is where we meet Kou’s old friend, a girl who’s just moved to town, plus Toma plays in a band. (Seriously, this guy is so much better than the lead!) Kou’s new friend is trying to tell him not to be the old friend’s only connection, because it’s not good for either of them. That’s a more mature attitude than I expected, then the rest of the book gets caught up in Futaba freaking out over an accidental kiss, complicated by the new girl’s dropping just the wrong thing into conversation on purpose.
I’m not sure I can make my brain young enough for this any more. The characters are literally running away from each other, spurred on by a yelled “Do I look like someone who would do that? You did do that!” I no longer have a lot of patience for setups that wouldn’t be spun out into a book if only they would talk to — and listen to — each other. At least the friends tell them what idiots they’re being. And Toma has self-discipline to not immediately act on whatever he feels. Maybe I’ll keep reading just for him. (The publisher provided review copies.)